Google-Sun Partnership Falls Short of Hopes

Opinion: We were hoping for the next great moment in office software. We got "Google Toolbar as an option in its consumer downloads of the Java Runtime Environment."

I hadnt seen so much excitement about a software alliance announcement in ages.

There was Sun, with the most popular open-source office suite in the world. There was Google, the one technology company big enough to go mano-a-mano with Microsoft and win.

Together for the first time.

The caged tag-team death match between Eric Schmidt and Scott McNealy vs. the dark overlords of the Evil Empire, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Winner takes the desktop.

They talked it up on Slashdot. There were over 6,000 blog entries on "Sun, Google Office." Some reporters, none of the ones with my crew, Im thankful to say, wrote it up as done deal.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read the details about the Google-Sun software partnership.

So, did we get Google Office, based on Star Office 8? Or, Google Office, based on 2.0? Or, the one I would have put money on, Google Office, based on Java Desktop System?

It was none of the above.

We got "Google Toolbar as an option in its consumer downloads of the Java Runtime Environment."

And, "companies have agreed to explore opportunities to promote and enhance Sun technologies, like the Java Runtime Environment and …"

Had I been at the press conference, I would have turned off OpenOffice 2.0, shut down SuSE Linux Pro 9.3, closed up my laptop and walked out.

This was not news.

But, you know one thing thats interesting about this? People—and I mean a lot of people—really, really wanted Sun and Google to deliver on a Web-based office suite.

Theres nothing whatsoever new about it.

Companies like Citrix have been making a small living from it for years; long before that, IBM, DEC and others had their users to use mainframe and mini-based office systems.

Honestly, Ive never cared for this idea much. The whole point of PCs was to put the power to run applications on your desktop where you controlled it and where it ran a lot faster.

Thats still pretty much where I sit. For some specialized applications, like those of, this kind of ASP (application server provider) model can work.

You still cant convince me, though, that an office suite works well with that way. Systems like Citrix MetaFrame over the Internet are just too darn prone to slowing down to a crawl if something happens to your network connection.

I dont see how a Google Office could avoid this basic problem. I dont care how fast and affordable broadband gets; it still isnt going to be anywhere near as fast as the bus between my CPU and main memory.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about what industry analysts think about the Google-Sun partnership.

But, still, boy did people want Google Office to be a reality.

I know some folks are still holding out hope that theres more to Tuesdays announcement than it seemed.

Dream on, my friends, dream on.

Many of us may want an office suite thats both good enough and backed by a powerful enough company like Google to finally give Microsoft Office a run for its money, but that day isnt here yet.

Darn it.

Ziff Davis Internet Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been working and writing about technology and business since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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